Archive for May, 2018

The Freedom of Others

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

People do not want to be told how to live. They want to be loved. Lecturing, cajoling, and manipulating will only bring about a cynical attitude toward humanity. Even when others do happen to change under your influence, you will not respect them for it. If you want people to be human beings rather than puppets, take your hands off their strings. Give them plenty of room to breathe, and you’ll breathe easier yourself.

I cannot set anyone else free. Only God can do that, and even He wants their cooperation. But if I make a habit of treating others as if they are already free, they’ll stand a much better chance of getting the hang of it. The reason they are not kind and loving may well be that no one has ever treated them as if they are. If you want to see kingly qualities, treat people like kings.

— Mike Mason, Practicing the Presence of People, p. 189-190

[Photo: Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania, June 15, 2008]

Freedom in Forgiveness

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

The journey to release all grudges, to relinquish the quest for revenge, and to let go of the fantasy of what might have been is one of the most difficult spiritual challenges we’ll ever face. But I promise you, it is also the most rewarding. Because the other side of forgiveness is freedom.

There was a time when I believed the act of forgiveness meant accepting the offender, and by doing so, condoning the act. I didn’t understand that the true purpose of forgiveness is to stop allowing whatever that person did to affect how I live my life now.

— Oprah Winfrey, The Wisdom of Sundays, p. 112

[Photo: Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997]

True Meaning of Sacrifice

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Christ’s self-offering must define the true meaning of sacrifice, as opposed to letting the symbols of sacrifice define the reality of what Jesus did. Reversing these is the quickest path to paganizing the sacrifice of Christ. Christ doesn’t get his meaning from the symbols; the symbols derive their meaning from him, even when they predate his own sacrifice.

The meaning Christ attributes to sacrifice is simply this: laying one’s life down for someone else (I John 3:16). Anyone who gives their life to rescue another — whether it’s a fireman dying while pulling someone from a flaming building; a policeman who’s fatally wounded while rescuing a hostage; or a martyr stoned to death for preaching the good news — is ‘paying the ultimate price.’ Here, the metaphors are off the table. Here, sacrifice (laying down your life) is raw actuality — the events as they really happened.

Notice that this type of sacrifice has nothing to do with punishment, payment, retribution or appeasement. In every case, a life is given for the sake of the other, not to satisfy someone’s wrath or placate their anger, but as a life-giving, life-saving sacrifice.

When God sent his Son to earth to restore the planet, the sacrifice — his life, his death — was the costly offering of self-giving love. But unlike the fireman, policeman or martyr, Jesus’ sacrificial death allows him to rescue even the dead as well, because he brings them with him back from the grave!

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 256-257

[Photo: Sunset from Waterside Inn, Chincoteague, Virginia, October 2016]

Relating to Ourselves with Lovingkindness

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Fortunately, when we relate to ourselves with lovingkindness, perfectionism naturally drops away. We may realize we’ll never sing an aria at the Met, but we can continue to love opera, follow our favorite singers, and perhaps join a local chorus. There’s no frustration, bitterness, or self-criticism in this kind of loving acceptance. It doesn’t mean we’re complacent, but rather we stop resisting the way things actually are. Wholehearted acceptance is a basic element of love, starting with love for ourselves, and a gateway to joy. Through the practices of lovingkindness and self-compassion, we can learn to love our flawed and imperfect selves. And in those moments of vulnerability, we open our hearts to connect with each other, as well. We are not perfect, but we are enough.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 71

[Photo: Zweibrücken Rose Garden, Germany, June 2003]

God Does Not Give Up

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

It is impossible for me to believe that the God revealed in Jesus will at some point simply throw up his hands in defeat or harden his heart in retaliation.

To anticipate an issue we will discuss later on, why is death often seen as the deadline for receiving salvation? If God loves all people and desires for all to be saved, as scripture seems to clearly assert (I Peter 3:9) and as most Christians (besides Calvinists) would agree, then why would God’s attitude towards people change upon physical death? Why would God go from actively desiring and working for a person’s salvation in this life, and yet be content to give that person over to the rebellion forever in the life to come? Why wouldn’t God keep doing all that he could do to try to get through to that person?

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 27-28

[Photo: Leithöfe, Germany, May 2, 1997]

Growing Joy

Friday, May 25th, 2018

I want people to see that happiness is taught in the Bible and that God wants us to have it, starting now, and that the deep joy of living, far from being fickle, can be counted on to grow and expand and become purer and sweeter.

— Mike Mason, Champagne for the Soul, p. 69

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Your Everest

Thursday, May 24th, 2018

Everyone has an Everest. Whether it’s a climb you chose, or a circumstance you find yourself in, you’re in the middle of an important journey. Can you imagine a climber scaling the wall of ice at Everest’s Lhotse Face and saying, “This is such a hassle”? Or spending the first night in the mountain’s “death zone” and thinking, “I don’t need this stress”? The climber knows the context of his stress. It has personal meaning to him; he has chosen it. You are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in. “Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest” is a way to remember the paradox of stress. The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.

The biggest problem with trying to avoid stress is how it changes the way we view our lives, and ourselves. Anything in life that causes stress starts to look like a problem. If you experience stress at work, you think there’s something wrong with your job. If you experience stress in your marriage, you think there’s something wrong with your relationship. If you experience stress as a parent, you think there’s something wrong with your parenting (or your kids). If trying to make a change is stressful, you think there’s something wrong with your goal.

When you think life should be less stressful, feeling stressed can also seem like a sign that you are inadequate: If you were strong enough, smart enough, or good enough, then you wouldn’t be stressed. Stress becomes a sign of personal failure rather than evidence that you are human. This kind of thinking explains, in part, why viewing stress as harmful increases the risk of depression. When you’re in this mindset, you’re more likely to feel overwhelmed and hopeless.

Choosing to see the connection between stress and meaning can free you from the nagging sense that there is something wrong with your life or that you are inadequate to the challenges you face. Even if not every frustrating moment feels full of purpose, stress and meaning are inextricably connected in the larger context of your life. When you take this view, life doesn’t become less stressful, but it can become more meaningful.

Kelly McGonigal, The Upside of Stress, p. 86-87

[Photo: Berg Goldeck, above Spittal an der Drau, Austria, July 29, 1998]

Community

Monday, May 21st, 2018

My friend Sara says that the really inconvenient thing about being Christian is the fact that God is revealed in other people, and other people are annoying. I understand the impulse of not wanting to be in community. I can’t argue with that. But I think the experience of bumping up against other people has changed me in ways that I never could have been changed if I was just reading books and practicing meditation. We don’t get to be Christians on our own. It’s really inconvenient, and I wish there were a different setup for that. But that’s what we were handed.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 207-208

[Photo: South Riding, Virginia, on the property of Gateway Community Church, April 24, 2016]

Carried

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

He will carry us in his arms till we are able to walk; he will carry us in his arms when we are weary with walking; he will not carry us if we will not walk.

Very different are the good news Jesus brings us from certain prevalent representations of the gospel, founded on the pagan notion that suffering is an offset for sin, and culminating in the vile assertion that the suffering of an innocent man, just because he is innocent, yea perfect, is a satisfaction to the holy Father for the evil deeds of his children. . . . The good news of Jesus was just the news of the thoughts and ways of the Father in the midst of his family.

— George MacDonald, The Hope of the Gospel, p. 81-82

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]

Our Common Human Hospitality

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

Our common human hospitality longs to find room for those who are left out. It’s just who we are if allowed to foster something different, something more greatly resembling what God had in mind. Perhaps, together, we can teach each other how to bear the beams of love, persons becoming persons, right before our eyes. Returned to ourselves.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. xv

[Photo: Burg Dahn, Germany, July 1997]